Noise can cause short and long time injuries and it can often be neglected when planning is made. Long-term exposure to noise can create permanent damage but so can short term exposure to extreme levels of harmful noise.
Any person that conducts a business or any type of undertaking (PCBU) has a legal obligation to manage the hazard of potential hearing loss as a result of workers being exposed to noise.
All PCBU’s have to make sure that their workers are not exposed to noise levels that are higher than the standard for noise exposure.
At the Workplace Health and Safety Queensland website at http://www.deir.qld.gov.au/ guidelines for managing noise exposure are documented:
A worker who is frequently required to wear personal hearing protection to protect against noise that exceeds the exposure standard must be provided with audiometric testing:
- within 3 months of commencing work
- at least every 2 years.
Frequently means occurring often or in close succession for example a worker has to:
- wear personal hearing protection to do a particular task, and this task is performed once every hour, for 15 minutes throughout the day, every day of the week
- use personal hearing protection at some time everyday.
Where a worker has to wear personal hearing protection infrequently to perform a particular task, such as once a week and at no other time, then audiometric testing does not have to be conducted.
There are requirements for designers, manufacturers, importers, and suppliers of plant to develop, provide and supply information about the noise emissions produced by a piece of plant.
Noise at the workplace that exceeds the exposure standard and is not controlled is a major cause of hearing loss to workers. A significant loss of hearing contributes to social isolation and reduced quality of life, career prospects, increased absenteeism, worker turnover and lowered work performance. It can also be a contributing factor to workplace injuries and accidents.
The health risks of noise exposure
If a worker is exposed to noise in the workplace there can be various physiological and psychological outcomes including:
- Affecting speech
- Cause difficulty with thinking and concentration
- Cause difficulties with sleep
- Be a factor is fatigue and cause aggression
- Affecting the immune system
- Potentially lead to heart disease
When workers are exposed to high levels of noise their ‘flight or fight’ reaction is stimulated so when the exposure is prolonged more serious health effects may be the outcome such as:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Elevated heart rate
A reduction in immune response